Top IDF intelligence official suggests Israel could attack Iraq to curb Iran’s clout
Iran could use its growing clout in Iraq to turn the Arab country into a springboard for attacks against Israel, Major-General Tamir Hayman, the chief of Israeli military intelligence (Aman) told a conference in Tel Aviv.
Considering the growing threat of Tehran’s influence in the region, Israel has carried out scores of air strikes in Syria against military deployments and arms deliveries by Iranian forces supporting Assad and Hezbollah.
Iraq, which does not share a border with Israel, is technically its enemy but was last an open threat in the 1991 Gulf war. After a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, Israel has worried that the country’s Shi’ite majority could tilt to Tehran.
“Iraq is under growing influence of the (covert Iranian foreign operations unit) Qods Force and Iran,” Major-General Tamir Hayman said.
With President Donald Trump signaling he sought to disengage from the region, Hayman said, the Iranians may “see Iraq as a convenient theater for entrenchment, similar to what they did in Syria, and to use it as a platform for a force build-up that could also threaten the State of Israel”.
Citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, Reuters reported in August that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to Shi’ite allies in Iraq. Baghdad denied the findings.
The following week, Israel said it might attack such sites in Iraq, effectively expanding a campaign now focused in Syria.
Hayman predicted 2019 would bring “significant change” to Syria, whose dictator Bashar al-Assad has beaten back rebels with the help of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists, and where Trump this month ordered a pullout of U.S. troops.
PM Netanyahu said that Israel will escalate its fight against Iranian-backed terrorists in Syria after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.
Some Israeli officials have said President Trump’s move could help Iran by removing a US garrison that stems the movement of Iranian forces and weaponry into Syria from Iraq.
Israel has also been monitoring Iranian conduct since Trump quit the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran in May and reimposed U.S. sanctions. The deal placed caps on nuclear projects with bomb-making potential. Trump, with Israeli support, deemed the caps insufficient.
“We assess that Iran will strive to stay within the deal but will do everything in order to find ways of circumventing the American sanctions,” Hayman said.